AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard said Tuesday he will focus on winning re-election in November and then capturing another term as speaker, one day after his indictment on 23 ethics charges his lawyer described as a ploy to destroy Hubbard’s political future.
More than 30 supporters, including members of the Legislature and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, surrounded Hubbard at a news conference in Auburn, where he said he has given no thought to resigning since being indicted Monday on accusations of misusing his public offices for the benefit of himself and his businesses.
“I’m not going to let any outside forces determine who the representative is for District 79 or who the speaker is,” Hubbard said.
Defense attorney Mark White and Hubbard have contended for weeks that a Lee County grand jury investigation led by Attorney General Luther Strange’s office was a political witch hunt, but they had not said by whom. That changed Tuesday.
“I am talking about General Strange and the people that are working for him,” White said.
The attorney general responded with a statement saying he removed himself from the Lee County investigation last year and turned it over to acting attorney general Van Davis “to completely remove any appearance of politics being involved in the matter.”
Strange said no one has questioned the integrity and qualifications of Davis. “I have confidence in his ability to handle this matter fairly and completely without regard to politics,” Strange said.
Rogers, who described himself as Hubbard’s closest friend, said Hubbard and the Republican majority he helped get elected in 2010 have made big changes in Montgomery and made enemies. Rogers, who served in the Alabama House with Hubbard before going to Congress, said the politics of the investigation was shown by it going on for two years but the indictment not being served until two weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
“Think about this. Who would like to be governor in four years that would love to get Mike Hubbard out of the picture or at least skin him up real good so that maybe he’s not a viable candidate,” Rogers said.
If Republican Gov. Robert Bentley wins a second term on Nov. 4, he can’t run again in 2018. An open seat for governor traditionally attracts a large field, including people holding some of the top offices in state government.
Hubbard and White contend any business dealings that Hubbard had while chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and speaker of the House were legitimate.
“Why is it that the attorney general’s office thinks that’s it’s is a crime to have a business and thinks it is a crime to do business with anyone you didn’t know before you were elected to office?,” Hubbard asked.
Many of Hubbard’s supporters wore “I Like Mike” stickers at the news conference and campaign signs adorned the podium and the background. The signs reinforced Hubbard’s determination to remain in power: “A Proven, Conservative Leader for Lee County … and Alabama!”
But he will have opposition for another term as speaker. Republican Rep. Jim Carns of Birmingham said he is talking to House members seeking the office that is chosen through a vote of the House. “I think there is going to be some serious debate on whether or not someone who is indicted on 23 felony counts is in a position to do everything that needs to be done as an effective speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives,” Carns said.
Republican Rep. Mac McCutcheon of Huntsville said Hubbard retains strong support among his House colleagues. “You are our friend and our speaker and we support you,” he told Hubbard at the event in Auburn.
The indictment accuses Hubbard of soliciting some lobbyists, including former Gov. Bob Riley, for help in getting clients for his business, the Auburn Network. Riley issued a statement Tuesday supporting Hubbard.
“At no point have I have ever had reason to question Mike’s integrity, which is why I cooperated fully with the investigation and answered each and every question posed to me by investigators,” Riley said.
In 2010, Hubbard talked about corruption in the Statehouse under Democrats to help Republicans win a majority in the Legislature for the first time in 136 years. State Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley said she has no plans to turn the tables.
“As chair of the party, I don’t intend to turn it into a political football,” she said.
Worley said she wants to see the issue handled fairly in the courts. “We hope justice is done,” she said.
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